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Author Update 2024: Melody Groves

Melody Groves is the author of nine historical western novels across two series, five nonfiction books about the West, and numerous magazine articles. Her two newest releases, Lady of the Law (Maud Overstreet Novel #2) and Showdown at Pinos Altos (The Colton Brothers Saga #7), were both published in 2023 by Wolfpack Publishing. You’ll find Melody on and her Amazon author page. Read more about Melody’s writing in her 2016, 2018, 2021, and 2022 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

Melody, 2023 was quite a year for you. You published two books in 2023 and won the Spur Award for the biography Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw. And in April, you took the leap from Vice President of the Western Writers of America (WWA) to President of the organization. Before we get into your latest publications, can you please tell us about your journey with WWA and what that means to you?
Also in 2023, Trail to Tin Town was in the hands of a new publisher (Wolfpack) who released the eBook and paperback versions of the book. And I won the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for an article in Wild West Magazine about Billy the Kid’s mom. It was quite the year!

The journey to where I am now was a crazy and circuitous one. I joined SWW about a million years ago and attended every meeting, took many classes, met publishers and accomplished writers. At one SWW meeting, I met Tony Hillerman and his friend, Luther Wilson, who was the head of UNM Press. Wilson published my first book All About Rodeo—because I got the chance to talk to him, while Hillerman was swarmed!

Then, two SWW members gave me a mighty nudge to join Western Writers. By that time, I’d had several articles published, plus the rodeo book, so it turned out I was eligible! I joined and am so glad I did. Just like in SWW, I went to all the annual conventions, read WWA’s magazine Roundup, asked a ton of questions and eventually was published again because of being face-to-face with publishers and editors at the conventions.

WWA members are of a like mind — all love Westerns and want to be multi-published. We want to keep the genre alive. When asked to run as Vice President, I was terrified and honored. There are over 700 international members, and I knew someday I would be president. It was a six-year commitment — two as vice president, two as president, two as past president — but I agreed to take it on.

After nine months as VP, I was thrown into the presidency after the president quit. The WWA board and members couldn’t have been more supportive. Everyone jumped into action, and I think the organization is stronger because of the initial chaos. It took a while for me to think straight, but with a new executive director (he and I work together well), I’ve been able to address some issues. I’m ready to move forward with this new year.

For those who are new to you and your work, can you give readers some background regarding your writing career and what that path has looked like?
I wish I could say I planned out my career and moved forward with purpose. Instead, I simply knew I wanted to write, and my favorite genre was Westerns (probably from growing up in southern New Mexico). I was the newspaper editor in junior high, on the staff in high school, and a journalism minor at NMSU (Go Aggies!). Writing was a natural fit. I took time away from writing to raise children and to teach in Albuquerque Public Schools. In addition to teaching Gifted (I have an MA from UNM), I taught 6th grade language arts/literature. I had students write during the first 15 minutes of class. So…to model appropriate behavior, I did, too. Sometimes, that 15 minutes grew to 20. My first novel was written in class. I left teaching over 20 years ago to write novels and nonfiction books, and now have 15 — soon to be 18 in June — with my name on them. I’ve written tons of magazine articles as well.

Lady of the Law is the second book of the Maud Overstreet Series. What was the inspiration for this series, and do you see it taking on the same lifespan as the Colton Brothers Saga?
I have no idea what the inspiration for this series was. It was another case of a character sitting on my shoulder, talking to me constantly, wanting her story told. She wouldn’t shut up, so I wrote the first book, She Was Sheriff. I did the sequel, Lady, because publishers like more than a one-hit-wonder, and because the story wasn’t done in the first book. I don’t see it running much past book three — which I haven’t started on yet. It’s in the queue, though.

Does Maud, in Lady of the Law, embody any of your real-life traits?
Funny you should ask. Yes, there’s a lot of me in her. I didn’t plan for it, but when the subconscious takes control, the writing flows naturally. I hope Maud comes across as honest and likeable (ahem).

Showdown at Pinos Altos is the seventh novel in the Colton Brothers Saga. Please tell us a little about this latest book.
I didn’t mean for it to be part of the series, but here it is. This is a book I’d written several years ago, put in a top drawer, pulled it out last year, submitted it for publication, and wham, there it is in print. It features the youngest of the four brothers and is set in the Black Range in New Mexico. I enjoyed writing it because I used to go up into that area when I was a child, camping with my parents.

I had read that during your years with the New Mexico Gunfighters Association that you “loved being the ‘bad’ guy.” Which comes easier for you when writing: good guys or bad guys?
Bad guys I find easier to write. I think it’s the writer’s inner demon coming out. The problem with bad guys is each needs a good trait—one thing to make them loveable, or at least identifiable to readers. It’s easy to go overboard making the villains really bad, so I find I have to scale back on making them especially gritty.

It’s important to give characters little quirks. Is this something that should be applied to both minor and major characters within a novel, or can it be overdone?
Quirks. I’d say yes to any character—except how minor is a minor character? If he/she is a “walk on,” then I don’t worry about quirks. But if they’ve got more than a couple of lines and somehow affect the storyline or main character, then yes, make them more “rounded” by adding quirks.

Your novels take place in several states. How do your settings impact the stories and the characters?
A setting in a Western is considered one of the characters. That is something that identifies the genre. Consider deserts—a cowboy rides through cactus and sand dunes—he’s got to survive which is a story by itself. Settings are crucial in Westerns, not so much in say, a bodice-ripper.

When researching for a book, do you travel to the location you’re writing about, or are you able to intuit much of what you need to make each story come alive?
Almost always I travel to the location, or I’ve already been there. You learn so much by exploring the area. For example, in Lawrence, Kansas, researching Kansas Bleeds, I would have gotten it all wrong if I hadn’t traveled there, talked to tourist information people, etc. The topography has changed since the Civil War. It’s important to get flora and fauna correct and you can’t do that well sitting at home with Wikipedia. If writers can’t travel there, I’d send for brochures or call the appropriate agencies. They’re happy to put writers on the correct track (been there, done that).

Now that you have several novels under your “cowgirl belt” or should I say “hat,” what marketing techniques have served you best?
Marketing is tough, especially in a niche market. I find standing there selling works best. I go to several Western events each year and my books sell well there. I attend the Tucson Book Festival and sell at the Sandia High School Arts & Crafts Fairs. I do surprisingly well there, too. I’m not sure if buying ad space in magazines is fruitful. The best technique is television. Radio, I believe, is second. If you can get an interview on tv, that’s money in the bank. I’ve done tons of radio interviews and I’m not sure if it generated more sales or not. It was fun, though, and that’s what life is all about.

I’m curious as to how much of a role you play in your book cover designs? How did you feel when you saw your first book cover come to life?
Ah, covers! I try to influence the design, but I don’t always get a choice. I’ve been fortunate for several of my books to even design the cover, but some publishers (I’ve had 7) want to do it themselves. As for my first book cover, frankly, I was disappointed. It was my rodeo book and I thought too dark. They wouldn’t use the photo I wanted because you could see the bull rider’s face and I didn’t have a signed release from the rider. But the book has sold well despite my chagrin. (Cover tip — ask for orange somewhere. Studies show covers with orange sell best. Who knew?)

Can you give us a hint as to what writing projects are forthcoming?
In June, look for my three books in a new series tentatively titled Nolan Brothers Ride Again, about three brothers in 1871 Texas who have their trials and tribulations. Each book features one of the brothers. This was a three-book deal with the publisher, the first two are done and submitted. The third book is due end of April, and they’re telling me the books will be published in June. Keep fingers crossed. I’m excited about this project as I’ve never written a story set in Texas.

How can readers discover your work?
My work is all over the internet. Actually, I am. I have a new website that makes it easy to purchase my books. Unfortunately, a couple titles are hard to find through Amazon as the publisher went out of business. I’m in the process of finding a new publisher for those. Some of my books are in libraries, which is exciting, and local bookstores.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’d like to give some advice — if you want to be a successful author (your definition), you’ve got to talk to writers and publishers face to face. Go to conventions, meetings, conferences, on-line events. I know putting yourself out there is scary and tough, but that’s where you’ll find success — meeting people. It’s money and time well spent.

Thank you for reading this. I’m always happy to help. Questions? Send me an email to

Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.

2023 New Releases for SWW Authors #1

Chris Allen, Parris Afton Bonds, Melody Groves, and Patricia Walkow represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2023. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for 2024 interviews or updates for many of these authors.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2023 releases is included at the end of this post.

Alchemy’s Reach (August 2023) by Chris Allen and Patricia Walkow. Jennifer Murphy, deputy sheriff in a small town in New Mexico, has closed her heart to love. She throws herself into her job as well as running the ranch she and her brother, Ethan, inherited from their parents. Ethan’s wanderlust has taken him away in search of odd jobs. When he returns home, Jennifer entices him to stay for a while by telling him about Alchemy, a ghost town, once drowned by a reservoir, but now exposed by drought. Local barflies think there is treasure buried there. Others believe it is cursed. Intrigued, Ethan packs up his dog, Fi, and heads to the town. What happens at Alchemy will change Jen’s life forever, but will it open her heart to love?

You’ll find Chris Allen on Facebook and her SWW author page. Look for Patricia Walkow on, Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

Answering The Call (Motina Books, May 2023) by Parris Afton Bonds. It’s never too late to have the adventure of a lifetime. With her 70th birthday looming, Lauren Hillard thinks there has to be an easier way. She has long felt her family has simply stowed her away like a precious heirloom. She’s had it – she is done. Lauren makes the snap decision to answer the call to adventure and move to affordable, exotic Mexico. Exotic, like the much younger David Escobar, attorney and former criminal. Soon she wonders if it’s wise to answer calls from a treacherous family member who wants to have her committed, a ruthless organ harvester, and her captivating but high-risk attorney.

Visit Parris on her website and her Amazon author page.

Lady of the Law: A Maud Overstreet Novel (Wolfpack Publishing, March 2023) by Melody Groves. Women in the 1870s have little control over their lives and the women of Dry Creek, California, look to Sheriff Maud Overstreet, a thirty-something spinster, as an example of women’s progress. Following a disastrous fire that leveled the town’s school, Maud appoints a woman as fire chief. Inspired, several women step forward to run their own businesses, much to the consternation of the male town councilors. While searching for the school arsonist, Maud takes on the role of campaign manager for two of her friends, both vying to be Mayor. Toss in more fires, a wild romance, a rowdy town dance, establishing a school for Chinese girls, and mysterious threatening notes, Sheriff Overstreet faces each challenge with determination. She is, after all, a Lady of the Law.

Showdown at Pinos Altos: The Colton Brothers Saga (Wolfpack Publishing, March 2023) by Melody Groves. Andy Colton, the youngest of the Colton brothers, leaves Mesilla to pursue gold mining in New Mexico’s Black Range. However, he finds little gold and is captured by a runaway slave while fleeing from a band of Apache. When news reaches Mesilla that the Apache have raided Santa Rita and Pinos Altos—areas where Andy was last known to be—his brothers Trace and James set out to search for him. After the slave sells Andy to the Apache, a fight ensues between the Coltons and the Apache in Pinos Altos in an explosive showdown not soon to be forgotten.

Look for Melody on her website You’ll find all her books on Amazon.

Holes in Our Hearts: An Anthology of New Mexican Military Related Stories and Poetry (May 2023), edited by Jim Tritten, Dan Wetmore, and Joseph Badal. Holes in Our Hearts provides snapshots of military life and how the military has affected lives. It is written from the perspective of New Mexico active-duty military members, veterans of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as their family members and caregivers. Some of the writing represents the first time many authors have revealed their innermost thoughts to anyone. Some of the stories are written by established authors with numerous publishing credentials. All are worth the time to learn why we continue to honor the military on behalf of a grateful nation. This collection of prose and poetry was gathered and created by SouthWest Writers and funded through a grant from the State of New Mexico Arts and the Military Program.

For a list of contributing authors, visit the Holes in Our Hearts book page on the SWW website. The anthology is available on Amazon.

SWW Author Interviews: 2023 Releases

Marty Eberhardt
Bones in the Back Forty

William Fisher
The Price of the Sky: A Tale of Bandits, Bootleggers, and Barnstormers

Patricia Gable
The Right Choice

Cornelia Gamlem
The Decisive Manager: Get Results, Build Morale, and Be the Boss Your People Deserve

Joyce Hertzoff
Train to Nowhere Somewhere: Book 1 of the More Than Just Survival Series

Brian House
Reich Stop

T.E. MacArthur
The Skin Thief

Nick Pappas
Crosses of Iron: The Tragic Story of Dawson, New Mexico, and its Twin Mining Disasters

Marcia Rosen
Murder at the Zoo

Lynne Sebastian
One Last Cowboy Song

JR Seeger
The Enigma of Treason

Suzanne Stauffer
Fried Chicken Castañeda

Jodi Lea Stewart
The Gold Rose

Patricia Walkow
Life Lessons from the Color Yellow

R. Janet Walraven
LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down

Donald Willerton
Death in the Tallgrass

Linda Wilson
Waddles the Duck and
Cradle in the Wild: A Book for Nature Lovers Everywhere

Author Update 2022: Melody Groves

Author Melody Groves writes what she knows best: the Old West. In 2022, she released the sixth novel in her Colton Brothers Saga, Trail to Tin Town (Five Star Publishing), as well as the nonfiction book Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw (Two Dot Publishing). You’ll find Melody on, Facebook, and her Amazon author page. Read more about Melody’s writing in her 2016, 2018, and 2021 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Trail to Tin Town?
The story is based on fact. I had to learn about herding cattle, but I enjoyed writing about each of the Colton brothers. I also enjoyed how they love each other and yet annoy each other—just like real brothers! And I loved writing the villain—it was a challenge to figure out how to make him more disgusting every day!

What other challenges did this work pose for you?
The biggest challenge was how much of the previous storylines from the other five books to include. Writing a series is always a challenge.

What was the inspiration for this sixth book in the Colton Brothers Saga?
Based on fact, California residents in the 1800s had been too busy mining for gold that they failed to raise beef. The last westward cattle drive occurred around 1895 from Arizona—they were going to transport the beef via railroad, but the railroad raised the price, so the cattlemen drove the herd themselves. I thought that was an interesting historical fact, plus I needed a story with all four brothers, thinking this might be their swansong, so to speak.

Which brother is the main point of view character in this installment?
This is James’ story—the second brother. The cattle drive was his idea and he’s always the one willing to try something new. He’s a risk taker but has so many demons. For him, simply surviving each day is an adventure. And in the past, things didn’t work out well for him, so I thought it was time to change that.

Why did you end the series with Trail to Tin Town?
Of course, never say…the end. There may be a seventh book, but I doubt it. My characters are ready to move on with their lives. It simply feels like the Saga is done. Their story is told.

Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw offers readers a new take on an Old West icon. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
I’ve been fascinated with Billy since I was a kid. I lived less than a mile from La Mesilla where he stood trial and I used to walk over to where he was tried (it was a bar when I was a kid and now it’s a gift shop). Even then I was mesmerized by this “outlaw” who was wronged in so many ways. I have numerous other connections to him and, even though he’s been written about hundreds of times, I had to put in my two cents. Plus, when I pitched the idea to an editor, she said, “Billy sells.”

Why do you think people continue to be fascinated with Billy the Kid more than 140 years after his death?
Billy is good for tourism. His infamy brings in millions of dollars. But also because he was such a kid with an interesting personality. And there’s enough mystique about him still and endless possibilities which make people wonder.

What was your most surprising discovery regarding Billy the Kid’s life?
Thinking about how, as a kid of 12 or 13, he would have felt to have a stepfather enter his life. Was he pleased, resentful, afraid, overjoyed? I was also surprised to discover he played harmonica. And that he was born in 1861, not 1859 as has been widely believed.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
My favorite part was connecting the dots. I think I’ve come up with why younger brother Joe had the middle name Bonney; why the Mom moved to Indianapolis; how they moved from Denver to Santa Fe to Silver City; why Billy chose to stay in Ft. Sumner when he knew Sheriff Pat Garrett was close by. And I think being a woman helped me truly “feel” Billy instead of simply looking at the facts.

With eight fiction and five nonfiction titles, you have a great track record for finding traditional publishers to take on your book projects, especially since you don’t have an agent. What’s your secret?
My secret? Being in the right place at the right time. And going to meetings and conventions. I credit SouthWest Writers and especially Western Writers of America for presenting me the opportunities to meet editors. The trick is to do your best and work well with these editors—a book is a team effort.

What do you consider the most essential elements of a well-written novel? How do these elements differ for a nonfiction book?
A well-written novel is all about character. Yes, a plot is nice, but it’s all about character. The more in-depth the writer gets into what makes a character tick, the better the novel. If a reader can’t relate to a character, especially one who’s only two-dimensional, then the reader will put down the book.

Nonfiction, I’ve learned, needs to contain information that is new and yet relatable to the reader. And yes, the characters, even though they’re real, need to be multi-faceted. Good writing is good writing, whether it’s fiction or not.

What is the most difficult aspect of writing historical fiction?
Putting my characters in events that really did happen. I’ve had to change timelines and even character ages, etc., to match with a historical event.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on two novels—a third book in the She Was Sheriff series, and the beginning of a series about a guy in Texas who wants to be a more successful outlaw than the James Brothers. I’m also doing several magazine articles.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m incredibly grateful and indebted to the people who’ve helped me along the way to achieve my dream of being a professional writer. We’re all in this life together and it doesn’t take much effort to help someone else.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update 2021: Melody Groves

Author Melody Groves is a retired teacher and former gunfighter who uses her love for the Old West to inspire her nonfiction books and articles, as well as two historical fiction series (the Colton Brothers Saga and the Maud Overstreet Saga). TwoDot Books published her newest nonfiction release, When Outlaws Wore Badges, in April 2021. Melody is a member of SouthWest Writers, Western Writers of America, and New Mexico Press Women. You’ll find her on, Facebook, and her Amazon author page. Read more about Melody and her writing in SWW’s 2016 and 2018 interviews.

What is your elevator pitch for When Outlaws Wore Badges?
Fourteen men of the Old West walked both sides of the “blue line”: some at the same time.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Finding characters to write about was easy, but writing enough for their ploys to make sense was tough. I had a limited word count so keeping in pertinent information, but not too much, was a challenge.

Of the fourteen outlaws you write about in the book, who is your favorite?
That has to be Burt Alvord in Arizona who, as a deputy sheriff and his gang, robbed a train then formed a posse from that gang. He deputized them all and rode out looking for the robbers. Totally dejected, they appeared in town the next day when they couldn’t find the outlaws. Now, that takes a lot of hutzpah!

Tell us how the book came together.
I’m not sure where the idea came from—I’ve always liked to write about unusual aspects of the West. A couple of my historian friends made suggestions about who I should include. The research, writing, editing on my part took about eight months. The hardest part was finding photos that would work. I bought a few and took a few others off the internet, which isn’t the world’s best resolution. It took a bit for me to understand that while all old photos are in the public domain, not all can be printed for free. Also, getting permission to use some took forever—people were really slow to respond.

Any “Oh, wow!” moments when doing research for this book?
My closest “Oh, wow!” moment was when I started putting together the connections most of these men had to each other. Especially those in the Dodge City Gang that worked out of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Favorite part? That’s easy. When it was done.

Your writing takes many forms—articles, nonfiction books, and novels. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you write or read?
I do enjoy writing all three forms. I’m drawn to reading more nonfiction magazine articles because, truthfully, I’m not constantly editing them, as I do fiction novels when I read them. I don’t worry much about that in nonfiction!

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? How do you feel about research?
Editing or creating? Both have their places. At times I’m happy to already have the words written, I just need to “fix” them. Other times, I love the freedom of putting brand new words on brand new pages. And I love research. I much prefer going there, seeing it, but that’s not always do-able. I try hard not to go overboard on research—you can spend all day researching and not get any writing done.

How has your experience writing nonfiction benefited your fiction writing?
I’ve learned that using the details in nonfiction is equally important in fiction. I judge a ton of Westerns each year and am amazed at one or two that insist the Rio Grande is in a different place than it really is or a pass looks a certain way when it doesn’t. I’ve also read stories in which the facts are just plain wrong. And even in fiction, the facts are the facts.

If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, how did you break through?
I don’t get writer’s block, I get writer’s apathy. However, I do dread that blank sheet of paper in front of me. What I do is simply start. If it’s a magazine article, I’ll look for a quote and that always leads me. A novel…I start with where the hero’s life changes. Nonfiction book…chapter one. And I also use deadlines as great motivators!

What writing projects are you working on now?
Glad you asked! A Billy the Kid book—all about him as a person (coming out June 2022). Also a magazine article on Albuquerque’s first town marshal (Wild West Magazine, Dec 2021) and an article on Billy the Kid’s mom (Wild West, August 2022).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
To be a successful writer, however you define success, you absolutely must write every day. You’ve got to think like a writer—edit what you read in newspapers, books, etc. Look for story ideas. And support local writers (and bookstores) by buying their books and writing reviews on Amazon. So important!

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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